Council still keen to sell key Warkworth carpark
Posted at 11:00am Wednesday 31 Mar, 2021
If it went ahead, Council would try to negotiate a sale involving the entire Baxter Street property and all its occupants – National Trading Co, Westpac Banking and the Rodney Lodge of Freemasons.
Rodney Local Board is once again battling to prevent Auckland Council from selling off the Baxter Street carpark in Warkworth.
Council's property division Panuku has been trying to get rid of the 116-space facility above the New World carpark for at least five years, but it has been prevented up to now by concerted opposition, principally from the Local Board and Councillor Greg Sayers.
Now the sale is back on Council's Finance and Performance Committee agenda, and Local Board members are still fighting the idea.
At the March Board meeting, they rejected Council's recommendation that they should provide conditional support for the sale, due to its importance to the town. Members also voted to ask for the carpark to be transferred to Council's list of community facilities and managed as a Local Board asset, with capital funding to complete the estimated $1.7 million of repairs needed to fix the surface and make the structure water-tight. That figure is up from a an estimate of $500,000 in 2017.
Members heard earlier that Council had, in effect, abandoned the carpark in recent years. Programme manager John Nash said its disposal had gained some urgency under the Emergency Budget, and keeping it would involve considerable expenditure.
“No part of Council is taking responsibility for this since Auckland Transport stopped managing the carpark last year,” he said. “There is no budget, it is without a department taking ownership.”
Warkworth Board member Steven Garner criticised Council for abandoning an asset that had the potential to generate income, which could potentially pay for necessary repairs and upkeep.
“It is highly valued by the community for the amenity it provides, much more than the value it appears Council is putting on it,” he said. “We don't believe that Council is valuing it enough. It's just another property they think they can sell to the highest bidder to create some money and that sits really poorly with this community.”
Board chair Phelan Pirrie agreed, saying the carpark should have its own Council funding attached to it.
“That it doesn't is unacceptable in my view,” he said.
However, he warned that if Council wasn't willing to pay for repairs, and it agreed that the carpark could become a Local Board asset, then they would have to find the $1.7 million.
“I have some real concerns about this coming back to us,” he said. “Having to take back an asset with water-tightness issues, we could get to the point where we could be forced into a situation where we have to do the repairs and other projects members hold dear to their hearts won't get done. I'm happy to support this, but members need to be clear-eyed about this. Once we're in, we're in, there's no fairy waving a magic wand – toilets, hall repairs would go – I just want to flag that now.”
In case the Finance and Performance Committee ignored the Board's wishes and went ahead with the sale anyway, members also voted to request that any sale process be delayed until completion of a Centre Plan for Warkworth, that the financial liability for the property did not sit with the Rodney Local Board, and “that consideration be given to providing a condition on the sale that retains public parking on the site to meet current and future needs”.
The proposed carpark sale will come before the Finance and Performance Committee on Thursday, April 22.